Drugs & Medications

Information About Pristiq For Anxiety

Micah Abraham, BSc

Written by

Micah Abraham, BSc

Last updated October 10, 2020

Information About Pristiq For Anxiety

Many medications are used to treat anxiety. Anxiety is a serious condition, and while therapy is always the better option long term, medications do represent a quick fix that some people need to overcome their anxiety symptoms.

All medicine has side effects, but some have more adverse reactions than others. One newly popular medication that some doctors prescribe is known as Pristiq, the brand name for Desvenlafaxine. This article will examine Pristiq as an anti-anxiety medication.

Pristiq - An Off Label Medicine

The most important thing to know about Pristiq is that it is not an anti-anxiety medication. It is an antidepressant that is occasionally prescribed to people with anxiety. This is known as "off-label" use, and it's a common practice with a variety of prescription anxiety medications.

All antidepressants have side effects, and all of them may have potential long term consequences if used indefinitely. Never start any mental health medication without a plan to stop taking it someday or without a doctor’s supervision. Your doctor will guide you through this process.

Introduction to Pristiq

Pristiq is an antidepressant from the Serotonin-norepinephrine reuptake inhibitors (SNRIs) class of antidepressants. Unlike SSRIs, which act on serotonin alone, SNRIs also increase the quantity of norepinephrine neurotransmitters that also play a role in anxiety and depression.

Even though both serotonin and norepinephrine can play a role in anxiety and depression, the goal is to give the patient a balance of the two neurotransmitters - not simply flood the body with one or the other. Too much of any one chemical can also cause its own side effects. So SNRIs are often (although not always) given after SSRIs have not been as effective as planned.

Pristiq is used off label for generalized anxiety disorder to some success, although a few studies have shown mixed results. Even though Pristiq is off label, two other SNRIs (Cymbalta and Effexor XR) have been approved for anxiety use, so there is reason to believe that Pristiq may be approved for the same purpose.

Effectiveness of Pristiq

Pristiq efficacy is similar to other antidepressants. It improves mood in some people and not others, often depending on the way that drug interacts with the brain and the level of chemical your brain needs to reduce your anxiety. No antidepressants should be taken without a doctor's supervision, because those who don't benefit from Pristiq may actually experience an increase in their symptoms.

Also, there is currently no drug on the market that cures anxiety permanently. Those taking Pristiq will still need to partner their medication with non-medicinal coping treatments.

Otherwise, Pristiq appears to be fairly effective at reducing anxiety in some people, with little effect for others.

Side Effects of Pristiq For Anxiety

SNRIs increase adrenaline activity in the body. Many believe (although few studies have been completed) that some people may actually experience an increase in their anxiety symptoms - especially their physical anxiety symptoms - if they go on a drug like Pristiq. Be careful about taking any drug and monitor how you feel. If you think your anxiety gets worse on Pristiq, contact your doctor immediately.

Also, all antidepressants run the risk of causing the opposite effect - increasing depression and suicidal ideation. If for any reason you feel more depressed or suicidal on Pristiq, contact your doctor as quickly as possible, as this may be a side effect of the medication.

According to research, nausea appears to be the most common side effect of Pristiq. As many as 30% of those taking the drug report nausea that was severe enough to discontinue its use.

Other side effects include:

  • Insomnia
  • Hyperhidrosis (excessive sweating)
  • Constipation/Diarrhea
  • Priapism
  • Brain Zaps
  • Night Terrors
  • Delayed Ejaculation
  • Headache
  • High Blood Pressure
  • Increased Cholesterol
  • Seizures

Nausea still appears to be the most common problem with Pristiq. The drug is otherwise fairly well-tolerated.

Other Information on Pristiq

  • Pristiq has an 80% level of bioavailability (drug that enters body)
  • It has a half-life of 11 hours.
  • Much of the drug is excreted in urine.

Alternative Treatments to Pristiq

For SNRI antidepressants, Pristiq is believed to be one of the better options available. But it is not the only option. You'll want to make sure that you're looking for alternatives that come with fewer side effects and interactions.

Some choose to use the natural medicine route. Kava is an anxiolytic herb that many believe is as effective as some brand name anxiety reduction drugs, although kava may interact with other medications and should only be used in the presence of a doctor.

Others may want to go the therapeutic route. Make sure that you consider therapy even if you choose to take Pristiq, as no medication alone can reduce your anxiety forever without it likely coming back.

Questions? Comments?

Do you have a specific question that this article didn’t answered? Send us a message and we’ll answer it for you!

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Where can I go to learn more about Jacobson’s relaxation technique and other similar methods?

– Anonymous patient


You can ask your doctor for a referral to a psychologist or other mental health professional who uses relaxation techniques to help patients. Not all psychologists or other mental health professionals are knowledgeable about these techniques, though. Therapists often add their own “twist” to the technqiues. Training varies by the type of technique that they use. Some people also buy CDs and DVDs on progressive muscle relaxation and allow the audio to guide them through the process.

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